09/24/2017 4:31PM

Highway Star runs down Carina Mia in Gallant Bloom

Chelsea Durand
Highway Star returned $6.20 in winning the Gallant Bloom at Belmont on Sunday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Highway Star had already done enough to merit a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and any lingering hesitation from her connections evaporated Sunday at Belmont Park.

Highway Star, under substitute rider Luis Saez, ran down even-money favorite Carina Mia to win Sunday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap by a neck. It was the third graded stakes victory of the year for Highway Star, a New York-bred daughter of Girolamo owned and bred by Chester and Mary Broman and trained by Rodrigo Ubillo.

“I had a hint, but I wasn’t sure, I was going to wait until after this race,” Ubillo said about running Highway Star in the Breeders’ Cup. “Now, we make it official.”

Highway Star improved her record to 8 for 13 overall and 8 for 9 in one-turn races at seven furlongs or a mile. The 6 1/2-furlongs of the Gallant Bloom was the shortest distance at which Highway Star has run.

“I was concerned about the distance, but it’s all about the class of the horse,” Ubillo said.

Ubillo had another concern Sunday. Angel Arroyo, Highway Star's regular rider, was not cleared by First-Aid to ride following a Friday spill. Arroyo recommended to Ubillo that Saez, Arroyo’s cousin, ride the horse.

Breaking from the rail, Saez was concerned about getting trapped down inside. He had Highway Star in the two path and in fifth position, about three lengths off the pace established by Lucy N Ethel. Carina Mia, the favorite, was second and Saez was intent on following her under Javier Castellano.

At the top of the stretch, Carina Mia struck the front and Saez put Highway Star four wide and in the clear. Highway Star corralled Carina Mia at the sixteenth pole and outsprinted her to the wire. Carina Mia finished second by a half-length over Quezon, Absatootly, Friend of Liberty, and Lucy N Ethel.

Highway Star, owned and bred by Chester and Mary Broman, covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.91 and returned $6.20 as the second choice.

“I was a little worried because I had the one post and I know everybody was going to come down and I was going to be stuck in there,” Saez said.

“When I got the opportunity I came out and I follow the filly of Javier’s. When we came into the stretch she took off.”

Highway Star added the Gallant Bloom to victories earlier this year in the Grade 3 Distaff and Grade 2 Ruffian.  In her two most recent starts, Highway Star finished third to Songbird in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps and second, a head shy of By the Moon, in the Grade 1 Ballerina.

“You see her past performances, she always tries, she’s always very consistent,” Ubillo said “Give it to her class.”

Castellano, Carina Mia's rider, tipped his hat to the winner.

“I didn’t have much excuse, I had a perfect setup behind the speed horses,” Castellano said. “The other filly came flying the last part. I give the credit to the winner. Second-best today.”